No matter the circumstances, it’s always nice seeing the Cardinals lose in person at Wrigley Field. And while I realize the time has come to move away from the core that brought a World Series title, seeing those guys produce against the St. Louis baseball team — in the flesh — is good for the soul. Thankfully, I wore sunscreen.
• Grumble. It doesn’t seen likely for the Bears and Allen Robinson II to come to a multi-year contract extension. So, unless something unexpected happens, Robinson will play the 2021 season under the Franchise Tag. To be fair, the Tag pays Robinson nearly $18 million and that’s a hefty chunk of change. But after missing out on a big payday when he hit free agency ahead of his age 25 season because of a Week 1 ACL injury in 2017, I can understand Robinson’s desire to cash in now. I suppose I’ll hold out hope that a deal can get done by the time the team has to make a decision on next year’s Franchise Tag. If not for Robinson, who certainly deserves the type of pay day he is reportedly seeking, then for a Bears franchise trying to build something with Justin Fields under center.
• I’m not even mad about the inability to get a deal done. Instead, it’s more of a feeling of disappointment. The failure to meet in the middle after a year is frustrating. The Bears have done sizable extensions for defensive players like Eddie Jackson and Khalil Mack. Even offensive linemen such as Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, and Kyle Long were given deals to hang around. But nothing at the skill positions, save for the Tarik Cohen extension. What gives?
• Maybe the team simply doesn’t value receivers. Perhaps we should view the Robinson stalemate as the latest in a trend. Remember, one of GM Ryan Pace’s first moves was trading away Brandon Marshall. A few years later, the team allowed Alshon Jeffery to walk away without a second consecutive offseason of getting the Franchise Tag. In recent years, teams have shown an ability to unearth superb receiver talent on Days 2 and 3 of the NFL Draft. But when it comes to the Bears, this feels like a situation where they shouldn’t be taking Robinson for granted.
• On top of that, I have concerns about the receivers room as a whole beyond Robinson. Darnell Mooney has talent and upside, but has just one year of experience under his belt. Anthony Miller and Javon Wims are free-agents-to-be after the 2021 season. Neither has consistently shown why they deserve to secure a second contract with the team, which is another example as to why I have concerns. Riley Ridley, another draft pick, hasn’t been given the time to shine, so the jury is still out on what he can be. Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd are veterans on one-year deals. Dazz Newsome is a rookie whose role will be determined starting this summer. This group, while brimming with upside, leaves plenty to be desired. But that’s why we have training camp. Sorting through it all will be a treat.
• All in all, the uncertainty throughout the receivers group has me thinking this is a must-watch position group at training camp. There is so much competition to be had. Goodwin and Byrd could both fit on this roster, but it feels as if those two are battling for the same role. Miller vs. Wims vs. Ridley in a Battle Royale among home-grown draft picks should be fun to observe. Larry Hawley (WGN Sports) writes about how different things will look at Halas Hall this summer. However, the fun of watching camp battles remains (no matter where camp takes place).
• Alyssa Barbieri (Bears Wire) has eyes on five potential breakout candidates to watch at training camp. There are some usual candidates here, but seeing Bilal Nichols pop up on the list piques my interest.
• Nichols is in the final year of his rookie deal, and his play over the last three years suggests he is worthy of an extension. This is a big year for Nichols, who could be on the cusp of taking on a larger role moving forward — whether it is with the Bears or elsewhere. We’ve seen Chicago’s football team develop defensive lineman at a stellar rate during the Ryan Pace era. Nichols, Eddie Goldman, and Roy Robertson-Harris come to mind on the developmental front. And we’ve also seen under-the-radar linemen turn their time in Chicago into lucrative deals. Robertson-Harris, Nick Williams, and Mitch Unrein are examples of that. Where Nichols ultimately falls remains to be seen. But if the arrow is to continue pointing up, then it will start with a strong showing this summer.
• Justin Fields rocking a “Rated Rookie” shirt has me wanting to go into some old shoeboxes and look at some cards:
• Extreme same:
I really just want to buy Madden this year so I can play with Justin Fields. pic.twitter.com/2LCGgpIDCl
— Matt Eurich (@MattEurich) July 9, 2021
• Getting Olin Kreutz’s stamp of approval is the ultimate sign of respect:
• Speaking of a true sign of respect:
Willson Contreras is the toughest baseball player I've ever seen; like Olin Kreutz-level toughness.
— Larry Mayer (@LarryMayer) July 9, 2021